End of face mask rules and vaccine passports as England moves to Covid plan A

27 January 2022, 00:08 | Updated: 27 January 2022, 07:21

England has moved to Plan A
England has moved to Plan A. Picture: Alamy

By Daisy Stephens

The mask mandate and the requirement for vaccine passports have now been scrapped in England as the country officially moves from Covid Plan B to Plan A.

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From Thursday, Covid passes will no longer be mandatory at large events and nightclubs.

Masks will also no longer be required by law in most indoor venues, although people are encouraged to still wear them if they are in crowded and enclosed spaces with people they do not normally meet.

The requirement to work from home if possible, which was also part of England's Plan B measures, was lifted last week.

It comes as hospital admissions stabilise, Omicron infections decline and the number of patients in intensive care continues to fall - and the number of people who are triple-jabbed has soared.

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"The tireless efforts of NHS and care staff, and the army of volunteers, as well as the phenomenal response of the British public means over 37 million people have been boosted,"said Health Secretary Sajid Javid.

"Our vaccines, testing and antivirals ensure we have some of the strongest defences in Europe and are allowing us to cautiously return to Plan A, restoring more freedoms to this country.

"As we learn to live with Covid we need to be clear eyed that this virus is not going away so if you haven’t already – please come forward for your first, second or booster jab."

Plan B was introduced on December 8 in response to the spread of the highly infections Omicron variant of coronavirus.

The restrictions bought scientists time to study the strain, as well as for people to get their booster jabs to bolster their protection against the virus.

With the data looking promising and all adults in England now having had the opportunity to get their boosters, the restrictions can now be removed, according to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).

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However some measures remain in place.

For example, face coverings must still be worn in health and care settings, including primary care - for example, doctors' surgeries - and pharmacies.

There is also still a legal requirement for those with Covid to self-isolate for 10 days, although they can end their quarantine after five full days if they get two negative lateral flow tests.

Local public health directors can still recommend face masks in communal areas of education settings as long as doing so is proportionate and temporary.

Businesses - for example, supermarkets or public transport operators - can also choose to encourage their customers to wear face masks, and venues can still choose to use the NHS Covid pass.

The DHSC is still encouraging people to come forward and get their Covid vaccines if they have not already done so.

Data from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) shows the booster is 92 per cent effective at preventing hospitalisation from the virus from two weeks after the jab is given.

Four in five eligible people in the UK have had their booster so far.

The Government is expected to set out its long-term strategy for living with Covid - which is expected to include scrapping the legal requirement to self-isolate - in the coming months.